Trip Report CocoView Resort May 8-15, 2021

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drrich2

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CocoView Resort Trip Report May 8 – 15, 2021

I had a 7-day solo dive trip (did 22 dives) at an ocean view room at CocoView Resort in Roatan, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras. I plan to post notes from online researching the Bay Islands as a dive destination, with lots of content from other people. For this thread, I’ll focus on CocoView Resort and cover broader issues (e.g.: why Roatan?) in my research notes, but still cover why I chose CCV over other options. I’m putting in a lot of detail, to help newbies to CCV know in advance what to expect (so this will be tedious for others).
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Why I Went To Roatan

Judging from Scuba Board discussions, the main greater Caribbean and Florida region top dive destinations by numbers appears to be Cozumel (#1), Bonaire, the Cayman Islands (collectively), Roatan, Belize and the upper Florida Keys. Some might add the Bahamas, but unless you’re after specialty dives (e.g.: shark feed dives with tiger sharks), recent reports of reef quality are underwhelming (though a couple of people thought the Juliet live-aboard’s route was a cut above). I’ve been blessed to dive all those…except Roatan and the Bahamas. (Note: No offence to Curacao, Grenada, etc… I’m estimating market share by how destinations dominate discussions. Curacao rocks…). English is widely spoken (albeit accented as a ‘second language’) – you don’t need Spanish on Roatan.

Roatan has a reputation for lush, over-fished reefs so not a lot of big fish (note: a problem in the broader Caribbean; on Roatan you can ‘cheat’ and pay for optional Caribbean reef shark or dolphin dives). Utila has a rep. as a popular backpacker destination, much smaller with similar diving and seasonal whale shark snorkeling. Roatan is much larger and gets much more Scuba Board attention than Utila, and Utila gets a lot more than Guanaja (which doesn’t seem to have compelling distinctiveness, unless you stay at the Villa on Dunbar Rock).
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Yep, no fish here...
At 48 miles long but < 5 miles max. width, Roatan is a long, lean island with a mountainous center, and tourist ‘civilization’ leaning to the west, offering mainly boat diving but a few places offer shore diving (e.g.: CocoView Resort, Reef House Resort). A key source on Scuba Board for Roatan info. is @Doc, and he can give a better explanation of how northern and southern coastal Roatan diving compare. The south is the windward side and tends to have a breeze but not sandy beaches. The north has some sandy beaches. The Bay Islands are associated with ‘noseeums,’ tiny biting invertebrates that wax and wane in numbers, afflict some more than others, and can mostly be held off with diligent insect repellent.
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drrich2

drrich2

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Why I Chose CocoView Resort

A Roatan trip demands a choice between regions. The west end has the literal West End (variously described as touristy, laid back, partying, some ‘backpacking’) and nearby (2 miles away) West Bay (described as more touristy, more civilized with good beach but prone to crowding when cruise ships hit the island). If you want civilized entertainments, shopping, etc…there you go. Elsewhere divers tend to stay at resorts, and to ‘stay on the reservation’ (unlike Bonaire, where many roam the island), aside from paid excursions to see rainforest, ride ATV’s, visit sloths, etc… For relaxing seclusion amongst nature and all needs met on-grounds…there you go.
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I considered Anthony’s Key Resort on the north coast; it’s large, has nearby sandy beach, offers a decent number of dives and hosted Scuba Board Invasions (note: those require resorts that can handle large numbers). But it’s got a rep. for being rather expensive (unless you do the frequent BOGO sales – I was solo), whether there’s a shore dive varies with reports, potential dive count is less than CocoView Resort’s and it looks like a good choice for people who want diving plus other things (including a nearby sandy beach)…plus I hear some food service is entre’ rather than buffet (one person complained of not getting enough food). Had my wife and 8-year old daughter been along, I might’ve chosen differently.

Turquoise Bay Resort is a reputable value/budget north coast option with strong reviews and the potential for 3 boat dives/day (and a night dive for the week), buffet meals, a small but nice-looking beach and a pool…but lacks shore-diving and the potential dive count doesn’t match CocoView Resort’s. I ran the numbers and a CCV trip was just a few hundred dollars more. Again, if my wife and kid were along…

The Roatan Aggressor live-aboard gets good reviews, and offers the almost unmatched ease of live-aboard diving (as close to ‘eat, sleep and fall in the water’ as I’ve seen) and under good conditions may hit a wider array of dive sites than other options (e.g.: Roatan, Utila and Cayo Cochinos). It’s expensive unless you hit one of those great > 30% off Aggressor Fleet sales (which seem to run yearly; in 2020 it was November), and then be careful of what season the dates cover. Do you want to spend a week on a yacht or an island?
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I’m a married, solo-traveling, non-drinking introvert on a mission to dive a lot and wring ‘scuba value’ out of my trip cost. I could’ve nailed an Aggressor Fleet sale and loved my 3 prior Caribbean Aggressor trips…but I’ve had that experience elsewhere. CocoView Resort is described as a ‘well-oiled machine’ and ‘summer camp for divers,’ a unique offering with high repeat business despite a lack of big sales, shore diving, ‘drop-off diving’ (from the boat coming in, you hop off and dive back to the shore exit), buffet meals (I eat big)…and looks to be Doc’s favorite Roatan operation. You can rack up a dive count comparable to a live-aboard! I wanted to add that ‘unique experience’ to my diving background. CocoView Resort has a great feature for solo travelers – the dreaded ‘single supplement’ (added cost to stay alone in a room) is quite low for a dive resort (e.g.: $200).

If you don’t dive heavily (e.g.: not > 3/day) or shore dive, have a non-diving spouse to entertain, like to hit different bars and/or other civilized venues, bring a child < 10-years old and/or need a nice beach…CocoView Resort may not be your place.

Note: CocoView Resort has a range of off-site non-diving excursions. My week, one guy broke a rib when a wave showed him into the ladder while re-boarding, and another injured a knee. If you have to stop diving for some reason, there are other things to do (at a price).
 
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drrich2

drrich2

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CocoView Resort, Grounds & Basic Shore Dive Orientation

CocoView Resort staff meet you at the airport and have shuttle and luggage service included at no extra charge. It’s a moderately lengthy shuttle ride to a dock where a boat takes you on a very short trip across water surrounded by lush mangroves to the key where CCV is. Their website has a nice aerial drone photo of the resort I’ll use to explain the layout.​
Immediately in front of the row of boats is a line or reddish buildings. Dockside Dive Shop is on the left end. After that are a row of enclosed but open-air ‘dive locker’ hallways (which have a nitrox log and analyzer), each one paired with a boat (e.g.: mine was the Coco II). It’s hard to see here, but tanks sit outside. They have 100-cf tanks (a prior review said you had to dive nitrox to get those; by e-mail I was told you could with air or nitrox; I dove nitrox), 80’s and I think 60-cf tanks. There’s also some sort of photography and video shop. Behind that row of buildings are rinse tanks and outdoor gear racks (clothes lines and pegs) for drying gear. So the boats are sheltered by the key from the open sea. The isolated reddish building way left of the main row is the medical clinic – we got COVID-screening tested there (if you bring school supplies or other things to donate to Honduran kids, this is where you drop it off).
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On the far side of the key, the right-most large building is a complex with the ‘Club House’ (where we eat plus a bar), attached aviary (with parrots), main office and gift shop. Those waterfront buildings as you head left are apartments – the 3 with brown roofs are over water. There’s more to it, and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the distant beach houses (for which bicycles are provided, and I noticed an Exercise Room), but this is most of what you need.
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On the far side of the key, in front of the Club House, there’s a long pier out to a covered platform where you can recline. To the left is a clear path with a little pale ‘thing’ at the end. That path is the sandy walkway from shore through the broad sea grass bed; the pale thing is a wooden platform beside which you don or doff fins. Then you swim out over a chain and/or series of floating PVC cylinders on cords across a sea grass bed to a mooring line set in the bottom (useful for safety stops, and this is where you put the flashing strobe marker for night dives), then on to the wreck of the Prince Albert.
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Standing on shore looking out toward the wreck, raise your left hand. You’re pointing toward CocoView Wall – when coming back from drop-off dives, keep the reef to your right. Raise your right hand – you’re pointing to Newman’s Wall – when coming in from drop-off dives, keep the reef on your left. The wreck is roughly perpendicular to shore on sloping bottom from about 45 to 65 feet deep (bottom, not top of wreck), so be sure to come in at depths you might see it. To the right of the Prince Albert is a rope leading off to nearby plane wreckage.

CocoView Resort doesn’t have sandy beach. The waterfront is reinforced with a row of rocks, facing a large, shallow sea grass bed plateau. They do have kayaks and stand up paddle boards.
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drrich2

drrich2

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Housing

I can show my ocean view room (2nd floor; nobody underneath me), a spacious, clean and comfortable room with effective air conditioning, 2 comfortable beds with 4 pillows each, a table and chair, mini-fridge, coffee maker, small lock box (note: big enough to hold large smart phones, maybe a small tablet, not a full-size iPad) by the bed, a large setup supplying bottled water (their tap water is well water and they recommend you don’t drink it), and at the end of the room a sink with a shower to the left and toilet to the right. Air-conditioning was quite effective; ‘hot’ shower water was variably warm. Plenty of toilet paper under the sink.
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The room was a comfortable place to hang out, web surf, write notes, recharge batteries, etc… This is a key advantage of land-based resorts vs. the typically small and shared rooms on live-aboards, where people mostly sleep and store things in staterooms but spend their topside time in the main salon, lounge chairs on deck or similar.
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drrich2

drrich2

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Topside Wildlife

I was thrilled when my neighbor pointed out our peaked roof ceiling over the balcony hosted bats by day, to warn me to be mindful where their droppings fall. I was like ‘We get free bats?!?! Cool!!!’
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Beside the building, the A.C. unit causes fresh water condensation; at night where the water falls becomes the kingdom of the hermit crabs.
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The grassy grounds are pocked with billiards ball-sized holes made by crabs. Look down them and you may see crab legs. I never got a good look at these guys. I saw (and heard) plenty of white-crowned pigeons.
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The endemic, endangered spiny-tailed iguanas were a common sight.
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I saw a basilisk, a lizard capable of running on its hind legs and across the surface of water.
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And plenty of brown anoles by day, and a small gecko near a light at night.
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I didn’t pay much attention to the pet parrots or a few feral cats; the resort dogs were friendly.
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Diving

Getting Set Up For Diving

If you’re new or haven’t dove with them in 5 years, they require an orientation dive. If you get there early enough Saturday to be geared up and ready at 3 p.m., and pay a fee ($25 for one or two, $10 each if one of several), a guide can get this out of the way. Otherwise, it’ll be done Sunday morning with no added fee, but you’ll miss the Sunday morning boat trip. I tried to get this done Saturday, but due to issues with my personal regulator had too much delay. It seems customary on your last day diving to do the morning but not afternoon trip; I followed this but didn’t ask. I had gear drying, packing and bill settling to do…

You claim a ‘locker’ space in the hall that serves your boat. It has room underneath for tanks (I dove nitrox; in theory you go bring yourself a couple of tanks, analyze, log and label them, and put them under here; in practice, the Captain and guide usually brought me tanks which I then logged an analyzed). Staff aren’t to load your nitrox tanks on the boat unless you put a piece of tape on the tank with your initials and the nitrox mix. If you plan to go on the next boat trip, take a small wooden piece with your number and hang it on a nail in front of where your tanks are. Air tanks are in a wall with slots.
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The boats are mostly covered. The Coco II had 2 rear ladders, but often (and it was recommended during rough seas) we used the entry portal in the hull. It’s centered side-to-side and set toward the front, a roughly square ‘tunnel’ by ladder. We handed fins and cameras up to the captain, who grabbed our gear and helped bear the weight as we hauled out. If you use this, be careful under the boat; a roughly 1-foot ridge runs down the keel and could hit you in the head. I always used the tunnel; it was okay vs. my experiences with ladders elsewhere, not a huge difference (but the guy on another boat who broke a rib when a wave shoved him into a ladder re-boarding might disagree).

Optional Extras: You can pay to be taken elsewhere to dive with Caribbean reef sharks or dolphins, or to take a lionfish spearing course. A fellow diver showed me the spear (which he got to keep!) from that $60 lionfish course. Out of 22 dives, I only saw one lionfish (other divers saw 2 on another dive). The commonly dove reefs at recreational depths were shockingly free of them, though I’m told they persist well below recreational depths.
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drrich2

drrich2

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Daily Schedule

1.) Morning dive trip heads out at 8:30 a.m. Be at the boat at least 15 minutes beforehand. After first dive, they hand out fruit (e.g.: water melon or mango).

2.) Afternoon dive trip heads out at 2 p.m. You’ll have plenty of time for noon lunch before this. After first dive, more fruit.

3.) Shore diving. Gear up in the locker area, take your fins and walk across the islet (not far) to the shore entry. Walk through the clear strip to the wooden platform, don fins, swim along the guide line (chain and PVC buoys) across the sea grass bed and on to the Prince Albert wreck. You can head out to explore CocoView Wall or Newman’s Wall if you wish. On your return sand will get in your dive boots by the time you reach shore. Watch the sea grass bed – I saw a small eagle ray, my only spotted moray this trip and (at night) a porcupine fish there.
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4.) Night diving (Shore diving after 5 p.m.). This works like shore diving with added details. Check the wall near the lockers to see if they’ve posted cancelling night diving due to conditions. If you have doubts, find the night staffer who can tell you conditions. I only got to do one night dive; other nights were cancelled (one may’ve just been strongly advised against); one night I was told there were 30 mph winds with 35 mph gusts and 6 foot waves. They list different categories of conditions. You don’t want to get swept off the return path across the sea grass bed out over shallow reef, etc…especially at night. Like with drop-off dives, you take a number and clip it to your gear. If you’re the first out, take the flashing strobe marker, twist to turn on (or off) topside, take and hang it (if you have it) and your number on the safety stop chain during your swim out. When coming back, take your number (and the flashing strobe, if no other numbers are on the chain) back to the locker area with you and put your number back.
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Note: if night diving from shore is a big deal, consider what season to go. My week, people night dove May 8th. I did my orientation dive Sunday, May 9th. Night diving was cancelled due to conditions May 9, 10, the 11th it wasn’t divable but I was told we were at Category 3 (very rough; the night staffer thought about cancelling; a number of people had expressed a desire to go night diving; I checked the log later and no one did), cancelled May 12th and I finally got a night shore dive Thursday May 13th. Day conditions don’t hold; some evenings I heard the wind and waves pick up strongly. I asked a night staff if this sort of thing was common this time of year; he said it was. I don’t know what seasons give the best or worst odds of night shore diving.

5.) Drop-off dives. On the way back from the morning or afternoon dives, they ask who wants to do the drop-off dive. Unless conditions are bad, this can be CocoView Wall or Newman’s Wall, or the Prince Albert Wreck. When conditions are rough or earlier when I did some solo dives, they tended to recommend dropping me on the Prince Albert; by week’s end, they were willing to drop me on the walls solo in good conditions. I went with recommendations and didn’t mention being solo-certified. Before exiting the boat, take an I.D. tag with your number, clip it on your gear, and once you get back to your locker, hang it back on the boat.
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So I was able to dive solo without stating I’m solo-certified, and you can shore dive and ‘do your own thing’ (conditions allowing), but for drop-off and night dives they have a system in place to monitor whether someone might not’ve made it back.

The dive staff I dealt with were friendly, attentive, perceptive and service-oriented. Captain Marcos and Guide Ruben did really good work; one day Mel captained for us, and he did the orientation dive. Big thumbs up for all these guys.

My 22 dive week:

1.) Sunday – Orientation dive of Prince Albert Wreck (with brief visits to Newman’s Wall and CocoView Wall). Afternoon: Doc’s Dive, solo drop-off on Prince Albert Wreck.
2.) Monday – Morning: Julio’s Reef, drop-off on CocoView Wall. Afternoon: Wreck of the Mr. Bud, drop-off on CocoView Wall.
3.) Tuesday – Morning: Ormand’s Reef (? Spelling; fairly new site), drop-off on CocoView Wall. Afternoon: Gold Chain Reef, drop-off on Prince Albert Wreck.
4.) Wednesday – Morning: Mary’s Place, drop-off on Newman’s Wall. Afternoon: Forty Foot Point, solo drop-off on Prince Albert Wreck.
5.) Thursday – Morning: Calvin’s Crack, drop-off on CocoView Wall. Afternoon: Minagerhea’s Reef, drop-off on Newman’s Wall. Night solo shore dive to Prince Albert Wreck and plane wreckage.
6.) Friday – Morning only – Carib Point, drop-off on CocoView Wall.
 
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drrich2

drrich2

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How the Boat Dives Work

The trip to an offsite destination may take several minutes up to 20 or 30, but tends to be short. Giant stride off the back or middle side gap, meet under the boat or at the mooring line, etc…, and the guide leads a fairly leisurely reef tour, arriving back at the boat somewhere near 45 minutes; and divers can mill around the area till they run low on air and head up.

Dive Conditions

The Prince Albert wreck is a 140-foot freighter sitting on sand, the bow at about 45-feet and stern about 65-feet. The top bow and stern have a lot of growth on them; mid-ship not much. It’s got openings and looks ‘open’ inside but I didn’t penetrate it. Viz. my week ran from 30 to 50-feet (I’m not a great judge), so really foggy to pretty good. Look off to the side; at times I saw eagle rays in the direction of Newman’s Wall. A rope leads to close-by plane wreckage. I saw a range of creatures here – black grouper, eagle rays, sea cucumbers, blue-striped grunt, etc… As wrecks do, it’s not ‘just a boat,’ but nowhere near the size of Bonaire’s Hilma Hooker.
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CocoView Wall and Newman’s Wall had about 50-foot viz., a lot of vertical wall structure, and were lusher and more attractive if dove shallow. They weren’t as good as the distant boat trip sites…but they were a chance to spend more time underwater. And I was blessed to find somebody really special in a vertical cleft in Newman’s Wall at 27-feet deep. The only 2 tiger grouper I saw in Roatan were on one dive on CocoView Wall.

The boat trip sites saved the day. They, too, often featured dramatic vertical wall structure (with a ‘shelf’ floor well beneath us; it didn’t feel like diving over the abyss), but viz. around 60 to 70-feet, lusher wall growth, often lush growth on the ‘shelf’ atop the wall, and Mary’s Place and Calvin’s Crack had swim-through features. It’s the boat trip sites that make CocoView Resort competitive with other options. Most dives had negligible or mild current; it was never really bad, or had to be fought for long.

Perspective matters; in the ‘glass half-full, half-empty’ state of the world’s declining coral reefs, as with other destinations, you can find sparsely covered, rocky-looking areas and diseased-looking corals…or lushly covered, healthy looking areas. You can find what you’re looking for in Roatan…so focus on the good parts!
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